LiquiGlide Inc. (Cambridge, MA) is slipping into higher gear with advances on several fronts recent and new.
Founded in 2012 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), LiquiGlide’s patented coatings eliminate friction between liquids and solids to create permanently wet, slippery surfaces. They can be used safely across a range of consumer and industrial applications from rigid plastic containers to extrusion parts. Products like ketchup, for example, no longer clings to the inner surface of a squeeze bottle, allowing near-total evacuation to reduce food waste and enhance recycling.
The company just announced the appointment of Tom Britanik as the general manager of the company’s consumer packaged goods (CPG) business. Britanik, who has extensive related experience as senior vp and chief marketing officer at The Clorox Company and as a marketing director at Proctor & Gamble, spent nearly two years as a consultant on LiquiGlide’s Advisory Board.
“As someone who oversaw multi-billion-dollar CPG brands, Tom understands how innovations like our slippery coatings can remove design constraints, enhance the consumer product experience and unlock new potential for marketing, sales and overall brand value,” says Dave Smith, LiquiGlide co-founder and ceo. “We are excited to have him lead our CPG business as we reach an inflection point with the commercial availability of multiple CPG coatings.”
Britanik joins LiquiGlide in this new role as the company commercializes its first applications in packaging and unveils custom coatings engineered for five specific CPG markets:
• Condiments (mayonnaise, dressings and dips);
• Dairy (cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt);
• Oral care (toothpaste and denture adhesives);
• Personal care (lotion, moisturizer, sunscreen and hair conditioner);
• Adhesives (general purpose glue, wood glue and caulk).
Packaging and plastics updates
“Packages containing viscous products are ubiquitous, and the waste and consumer frustration associated with traditional packaging formats are universal,” says LiquiGlide co-founder and Chairman of the Board, MIT professor Kripa Varanasi. “As we work with leading CPG companies to bring about a new packaging paradigm, Tom’s years of experience and deep understanding of the strategy, marketing and business behind transformative packaging innovation will be invaluable.”
PlasticsToday asked Smith about the intriguing reference to “first applications in packaging.”
“I can’t comment on specific products because of confidentiality, but we continue to make significant progress with a number of companies, and we are beginning to get line of sight to launch and timelines, which is incredibly exciting,” he says. “And the good news is that we are ready to expand our engagement with CPG manufacturers. We have a stable of coating formulations that we believe will work across a range of products, packages and categories.”
One market application the company is interested in is for tubes, such as laminated structures for products like toothpaste. We wondered to what degree the technology was moving beyond rigid containers into pouches and other flexible packaging.
“Currently, LiquiGlide is primarily working on rigid packaging and tubes,” Smith points out. “While applying the coating to laminated pouches is feasible, it’s just not a main focus for us at this point.”
LiquiGlide’s other recent news includes the closing of an additional $16 million in funding and expansion of its intellectual property (IP) portfolio with the awarding of three new patents.
Recently issued Patent No. 9,371,173 “protects the company’s broad use of liquid-impregnated surfaces for food packaging and processing as well as large containers,” Smith tells PlasticsToday. “These new patents expand the company’s IP portfolio to include 14 total globally-issued patents, with more than 150 applications pending around the world.”
In late 2016 LiquiGlide launched its CleanTanX system for industrial and manufacturing applications including food processing. This solution addresses the challenges created by viscous liquids sticking to equipment including blenders, reactors and tanks. LiquidGlide reports that CleanTanX has been shown to reduce up to 95% of product waste, wash water and associated cleaning costs.
“This expands our coating technology from packaging into manufacturing applications where reducing waste is just as important," says Smith.
We also asked him about CleanTanX’s appropriateness for plastics manufacturing and molding operations. “We’ve had areas where we’ve looked at extruder applications that are associated with viscous liquids,” he says. “For example, if there are liquid streams in the extrusion process such as colorants or additives, it’s possible to use our coating on those parts that are in contact with a liquid.”
We asked Smith about the current level of interest and what’s driving interest in these coatings.
“We continue to have very strong interest in our coatings for packaging, though there is typically no single driver of interest with our CPG customers,” Smith says. “Reducing waste and improving sustainability are certainly common drivers across market segments. Our CPG partners and their customers clearly value the ability to more easily and fully evacuate viscous products from the packaging. However, there are several other drivers that can be just as exciting to our customers, including, product premiumization, differentiation, and the opportunity to introduce completely new product and package concepts. In some segments we are enabling whole new ways of interacting with consumers.”